Monday, December 30, 2013

Waterfowl, rare birds await in Crex Meadows

Phantom Lake Trail
An array of short jeep trails at Wisconsin’s Crex Meadows Wildlife Area can be used for day hiking, offering the opportunity to see migrating birds and rare plant life.

Several of them can be found in Crex Meadow’s central area. From Grantsburg, Wis., follow the signs and yellow goose painted on the roadway, to the wildlife area’s southwest corner. County Road F heads north along Crex’s western boundary while County Road D heads east, roughly paralleling Crex’s southern bounder for a few miles. Take County Road D east then turn left/north onto East Refuge Road.

Jeep trails that make great hiking trails in central Crex Meadows include:
g Phantom Lake Trail – The 2.2-mile round trip trail heads to Crex Meadow’s largest body of water – a 2,000 acre lake teeming with birds from spring through autumn. On East Refuge Road, just after Lundquist Road, park in the southern lot for the Upper Phantom Flowage Trail. Backtrack on East Refuge Road and take the jeep trail going west.
g North Fork Flowage Trail – A number of flowages host islands perfect for nesting waterfowl; you can spot a few of those rookeries by hiking the 0.75-mile round trip North Fork Flowage Trail. Park at the lot or the Upper Phantom Flowage Trail on East Refuge Road’s east side. Walk north on East Refuge Road and take the first jeep trail heading right/east to North Fork Flowage.
g Dike 1 Flowage Trail – The 0.5-mile round trip jeep trail heads to the sedge meadows north of Dike 1 Flowage. To reach the trail, from East Refuge Road, turn right/east onto the jeep trail just north of Main Dike Road. Park in the first lot on the north side of Dike 1 Flowage. Hike the jeep trail to the next parking lot for an out-and-back trail.
g Dike 1 Sedge Marsh Trail – Hikers can spot a plethora of rare and endangered birds on the 0.5-mile round trip Dike 1 Sedge Marsh Trail. From East Refuge Road, about 2.5 miles north of County Road D, turn right/east onto the jeep trail (If you’ve reached North Refuge Road, you’ve gone too far.). Park at the lot at the edge of a sedge meadow. Rare birds that can be spotted here include LeConte’s sparrow, Nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow, and the Yellow rail.
g Monson Lake West Trail – A 0.2-mile jeep trail runs to Monson Road from the wetlands at the edge of Monson Lake’s west side. The jeep trail is on Monson Road (which appears as Town Hall Road on some maps) between North Refuge and Reed Lake roads; East Refuge Road ends at its junction with North Refuge Road; turn left/west onto North Refuge Road then right/north onto Monson Road. Park at the wetlands and walk to Town Hall Road on this out-and-back trail.
g Middle North Fork Flowage Trail – Day hikers can travel past one of the first pioneer-era trails in northwest Wisconsin on this 1.5-mile round trip. On Main Dike Road about a mile east of East Refuge Road, turn right/south onto a jeep trail. Park at the end of the trail alongside Middle North Fork Flowage; from the lot, walk to and then back from Main Dike Road for 1.5-mile round trip. The Tote Road was established north of the jeep trail in 1830.

Read more about day hiking Crex Meadows in my Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking Crex Meadows Wildlife Area guidebook.